Substance Painter 2 features review

Froyok on March 18 2016 | News, Software, Stories

I’m Fabrice -Froyok- Piquet, Substance Painter’s Product Owner, taking you on a walk-through of Substance Painter 2’s main features.

I’m the point of contact between Allegorithmic’s Product Managers, who are in touch with our clients, and the developers, who are in charge of creating and implementing new features. My position combines product design and technical artist roles.


We have one goal with Substance Painter: building the best texturing tool for game artists. Every new feature and update has been designed to facilitate the workflow for real time artists. Substance Painter 2 will push it further but will also aim at new users who expressed a lot of interest in Painter during the past year. Substance Painter is entering a new cycle and 2.0 is only the first iteration of many.

As a general rule, new features we implement are extracted from a pool fed by a few different sources:

  • User feedback is our main source of inspiration. There’s a lot of activity on social media thanks to a dedicated Substance community, and we monitor every social network and forum where Substance is mentioned. On the Allegorithmic website, we also have a user voice board where users can post requests for new features and vote on them. For example, the clone, blur and smudge tools were in the top 5 requests.
  • AAA studios such as Naughty Dog, Ubisoft and numerous others who have specific requests for their pipelines and creative workflows. These are then integrated into the software.
  • Recently, VFX and film studios have expressed a lot of interest in Painter as their workflows tend to converge more and more with game workflows. The Substance Painter 2 cycle will also address their needs, with for example UDIM and Linux support.




A lot has changed with this release. The new features are significant milestones. Some of these may seem mundane at first glance but involve some pretty interesting technical prowess from the team.

Non Destructive Clone Tool

The new Clone tool is unique in many ways. It can clone an unlimited number of texture channels at once, cloning the full material. It can clone a single layer or the whole layer stack, but most importantly it is entirely non destructive.

What this means is that what you cloned is saved as “cloned content” instead of being rasterized for good. If you clone a wood material on a seam of your mesh and decide later on to change this wood to a metal material, the new information will be propagated to the cloned content, requiring no extra manual work.


Clone tool




Non Destructive Smudge Tool

The new Smudge tool has a lot in common with its clone counterpart. It can smudge multiple channels and smudging the normal map actually gives a weird and interesting finger sculpting feel.

Like the Clone tool, it is entirely non destructive, and changing the content that was smudged will change the result of the smudge, again trying to mitigate the need to redo tedious operations when iterating.

Iray Path Trace Rendering

Substance Painter’s previous rendering system was based solely on OpenGL, which renders in real time. It’s good for a lot of things and it’s fast, but it is still only an approximation of the asset’s lighting, reflections and shadowing.

With the introduction of Iray path trace rendering, Substance Painter now has a “hybrid” render mode - that’s to say, a combination of real time and semi-real time. Iray is an unbiased renderer, this means that the lighting you get is as close to real life as it can be. This is especially useful for people targeting an offline renderer or looking for very high quality and high resolution renderings for portfolio pieces. Iray gives you realistic renderings in less than a minute by leveraging both the CPU and NVIDIA GPU if available.






Smart Masks and Generators

We did a little sweeping in the generators library and removed those that didn’t meet our quality bar.
At the same time, we added a new Mask Editor which is a very comprehensive generator that should allow artists to create pretty much any kind of custom generator, including the ones that were removed.

Another addition are the Smart Masks, which allow you to save those custom masks in the Shelf for later use. You can actually store a whole effect stack in a smart mask to create more variations.

Chaining Substances

In the previous versions of Substance Painter, it wasn’t possible to chain noises. With this version, it is. You can also add more complex filters. The combination of chained noises and complex filters means more advanced and realistic masks and patterns.

Immersive Viewport

You can now toggle between a perspective and an orthographic view in the Viewport. This means that you can paint details more precisely - we’re talking about things like button details and text.

It seems like a minor feature, but it required quite a bit of engineering to make it work correctly with our painting engine!
You can also toggle between UI and fullscreen views, which was one of our top user requests.


We revised all the Shelf content in this version to include new resources: new textures and scan-based materials. The scan-based materials are a big deal since they are based on very high-definition scans of real materials that we shot in our new studio in Paris. We also included a bunch of skin scans from our friends at that should prove very useful for all the character artists out there.

Another cool addition is the inclusion of 200+ hard surface normal brushes from the talented Jonas Ronnegard, and we added procedural settings to some of them to make them more versatile.

All the Smart Materials and Materials have also been revamped to support the Specular/Glossiness workflow (a Spec/Gloss shader is now also included) and we took advantage of this pass to increase the quality and consistency of all the content across the board.



A few more odds and ends I’d like to mention to be exhaustive:

  • We’ve added more scripting options for users who want to integrate Substance Painter with other tools in their pipeline, allowing you to create your own plugin with custom UI and such. We’ll post some examples very soon.
  • Height to Normal conversion has also been improved with a Sobel filter. Normal map quality is much cleaner with the new algorithm. When you paint details manually, you get a more satisfying result.
  • The new UI tweaks in Painter 2 are the result of the great work of Mikael, our new UX Designer, and is the first step towards a more friendly and easy to use UI across all the Substance Tools.

The best way to try out all the new things Substance Painter has to offer is to download the trial version (free for 30 days).

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